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FAMU says goodbye to its seventh President, Walter Smith

Two FAMU Band drum majors stand opposite a portrait of FAMU's 7th president, Walter Smith
Florida A&M University
Office of Communications/used with permission
Two FAMU Band drum majors stand opposite a portrait of FAMU's 7th president, Walter Smith

Florida A&M University marked the homegoing of its seventh president, Walter Smith, in a memorial service Wednesday.

Smith was born in Tampa but grew up 45 miles North of Tallahassee in Cairo. He sent all his children to FAMU—and was able to award his daughter, Salesia Smith-Gordon, with her degree. Smith is credited with expanding the Black Archives at FAMU, overseeing improvements to the university’s facilities and expanding Bragg Memorial Stadium. He also added more undergraduate and graduate programs to the school. Among the additions: the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and the Ph.D. in pharmacology.

“Thank you for remembering the foundation our father built. We stand on the shoulders of others. Each one of us here had someone who helped us. And one of the things daddy taught us… is that sharing is caring, and paying it forward and being a bridge-builder, matters,” Smith-Gordon, recalled.

Many of FAMU’s key programs were created during Smith’s tenure as president. Programs, such as the Institute of Public Health, are now the programs that are contributing to the school’s effort to climb in national rankings.

“He also knew that that as FAMU talks about today breaking into the Top 100 institutions in this nation, that it wouldn’t be able to do that without those programs. He knew that long before this young whippersnapper, Larry Robinson, came on the scene in 1997,” said university president, Larry Robinson.

Smith died earlier this month at age 86. His death followed that of fellow former president Fred Humphries who took over the school after Smith in 1985. Humphries picked up where Smith left off, leading FAMU to be named Time Magazine’s College of the Year in 1997. He died in June at age 85.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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